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To equip the next generation of Nigerians to address climate change, they have to be given the tools early on.

Recently, the United Nations has been calling for a review of Nigeria’s educational curriculum to accelerate efforts against climate change. Many education experts view Nigeria’s education curriculum as outdated, hence the need for it to be updated to meet present-day realities.

Ydo Yao, an official with UNESCO, during a workshop with senior Nigerian education officials, stressed the impact of climate education. “When you talk about education, you are talking about content, programs, and learning. So, if you want to transform education and you don’t transform what is at the core of it, your transformation has no meaning.”

This need to review Nigeria’s educational curriculum reminds me of a pressing concern I have had for the future: climate change. It is, without a doubt, the most significant threat to my own country and the health of the planet.

The African continent, and Nigeria in particular, have contributed little to the current climate crisis. Amadou Sy, with the International Monetary Fund, writes that Africa’s carbon emissions are the lowest in the world. “Africa is the continent that contributes the least to global warming in both absolute and per capita terms. Africa accounts for the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions—3.8 percent. This compares to the largest emitters like China, the United States, and the European Union, which account respectively for 23 percent, 19 percent, and 13 percent of global emissions. Africa contributes less to global warming than countries such as Russia and India.”

Despite this reality, the African continent is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including increased temperatures, drought throughout the continent, floods, and sea-level rise. These climate-induced impacts have the potential to cause widespread displacement, food insecurity, and conflict, which will have severe socioeconomic consequences.

Already, Nigeria ranks as one of the ten most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

In October 2022, Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency announced that flooding had forced over 1.4 million people to be displaced. Not only that, over 300,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, while 569,251 hectares of farmland was damaged. These devastating floods worsened Nigerians’ access to food and clean water.

Resilience is essential to curb the sharp wings of climate change. Every individual must make behavioral changes to contribute to a sustainable environment for all.

Due to my grassroots activism in my home country, I can say, with a certain level of confidence, that education is a powerful tool for transforming our society and I believe it will potentially solve this problem.

The capacity of future generations could better be built through knowledge acquisition which is a crucial step in equipping young people with the necessary skills to survive the debilitating impacts of climate change. Thus, climate education has a significant role to play in addressing climate change and other issues affecting our shared environment.

It is essential to introduce climate education into the classrooms to ensure that the next generation of Nigerians does not face the dire consequences of the current climate crisis.

Introducing climate change education in Nigerian schools is essential if we are to equip students with the knowledge and understanding of the environmental challenges our planet faces and encourage them to become active participants in addressing climate change.

By incorporating climate change education into the curriculum, students can learn about the causes, impacts, and solutions related to climate change. This will empower them to make informed choices, adopt sustainable practices, and become future leaders who can drive positive change toward a more sustainable and resilient Nigeria.

This effort could be delivered through a range of formats, including classroom instruction, field trips, community outreach, and online courses.

By raising awareness and fostering a sense of environmental responsibility at an early age, introducing climate change education in our schools will help create a generation that is equipped to tackle environmental challenges and work towards a greener and more sustainable future.

Adopting a proactive and determined approach towards environmental sustainability could pave the way for significant changes such as the elimination of plastics from the oceans, sustainable forest management, discontinuation of dumping during rainfall, and ultimately, the emergence of a generation that prioritizes climate consciousness.

Here’s a useful example. I had sought shelter at a salon when it started raining and I saw a woman who sells roasted corn, popularly called agbado sisun in my local dialect, dumping her refuse into the gutters to be washed away. If only she was equipped with the knowledge that the garbage she just dumped into the river might end up causing a flood that might affect her community, and the farms where she buys her corn, she might think twice in the future before fowling up her local environment.

Every stakeholder – the government, policymakers, parents, and activists – should invest in the necessary resources, infrastructure, and curriculum development to produce a climate-smart generation that can effectively combat climate change in Nigeria.

Peace Oladipo is a freelance journalist based in Kwara State, Nigeria.